I read a lot of writerly advice. (I’m currently savoring You’ve Got a Book in You, which I am about halfway through.)
One I struggle with is READ WIDELY, EVEN OUTSIDE YOUR GENRE.
May I be frank? Oftentimes, something pushes me out of the story and makes me think, “Why am I reading this when I could spend the time writing?” Or, more specifically, “Why am I reading THIS CRAPOLA instead of writing something less awful?”
I think it’s because I’ve gotten in the habit of reading for the sake of writing.
Ray Bradbury once described how, as a kid, he asked the family doctor about weird lumps in his wrist; his doctors congratulated him on discovering his own bones. I can often see the “bones” of the story poking through its skin, and it puts me off. Even worse, so many writers slavishly follow the Joseph Campbell structure, I feel a sense of deja vu even with books I know I haven’t read before.
In keeping with the spirit of my first foray – inspired by Sheree at View from the Back – I took a daytrip to Marine City, Michigan. Until recently, a ferry ran between it and Sombra, Ontario, Canada. (A recent update on the plight of the Canadian ferry service is here.) It remains a pretty riverside city that’s grown even lovelier thanks to imaginative citizens.
It’s home to the Snug Theatre and the Riverbank Theatre (a repurposed bank) and good restaurants. It’s an integral part of both The Bridge to Bay Trail and the paddlers-pleasing Blueways of St Clair. Most of its street art is on the main drag.
On the riverside, it’s impossible to separate art from landscaping. Here’s the entrance to River Park aka the Civic Women’s Club Park. The club dolled it up a little with cornstalks and gourds.
Turn into the park, and you’ll find a sitting area centered around a mature tree. The art is an accent; the river and its environs are the focal point.
The mural below always makes me smile – not just because it’s one of my favorite places for Sunday brunch. When the owners renovated the restaurant, they let its original mural of Peche Island Range Lighthouse play peek-a-boo with passersby.
On the inland side of the street, there’s a mix of commercial art and storefront displays.
Reflected in the window below is the Peche Island Rear Range Light, which has a rather interesting history. It’s named after Peche Island or Isle aux Pêches (French for “Fisheries Island”), which is a Canadian island located where the Detroit River meets Lake St. Clair. It always tickled me that a beat-up old lighthouse moved upriver to “land” in Marine City.
Below is art on the side of Marine City Music & Collectibles. It looks every better in person, up close.
The marque on the Mariner theater is a new addition done in the style of the ’20s. Can you tell where the new blends with the old on the building? Me, neither! If you’re wondering about the Titanic Exhibit, that’s a permanent feature. It centers on a 1:48 scale builder’s model of the RMS Titanic which the owner “brought home” after it went around the world (including London and the National Geographic Society’s Explorer’s Hall).
There is more, but I will end with two sculptures from near the Marine City Fish Company.
When yesterday became too dark for gardening and too Friday for housework, I decide to watch a movie from my half-forgotten watchlist. I chose Inception, a ten-year-old blockbuster I hadn’t seen. As usual when watching music-heavy videos, I put on closed captioning. It certainly helped in certain scenes. However…
As the story reaches the climax, the protagonist holds his dying wife in his arms and gently kisses her face. Or as the caption puts it: Smooches.
After I stopped laughing long enough to stop the film and go back, I watched it in a completely different state of mind . Disbelief, suspended until then, came roaring back with its drinking buddy Hilarity.
“Kisses tenderly” or “gently kisses her face” or plain old “kisses” would have been better captions. Why use a word completely out of keeping with the mood?
Sheree at View from the Back posted an interesting set of photos of Street Art (Murals, Graffiti, 3D Grafitti, Poster art, Sticker art, Sculptures and Sidewalk Chalk art). I wanted to follow suit because I enjoy statuary and decorative arts.
When I first moved the Bluewater Area, I was surprised that even small towns have public art. Algonac, a city of about four thousand, hosts an art fair on the waterfront. It also boasts seasonal displays.
The oldest statue is the Civil War Memorial, located between the boat launch and the ferry to Canada (which is, if I recall, the smallest border crossing between the US and Canada).
Most street art reflects the importance of the waterway to life and industry.
The Garfield Arthur Wood memorial celebrates the inventor and industrialist who also was the first to travel over 100 miles per hour on water. Chris-Craft Boats was born here, a joint enterprise by Christopher Columbus Smith and “Gar” Wood. The white building behind it started as a doctor’s house, hosted the original public library, and currently serves as the historical museum.
Another statue depicts past and present navigators of the St. Clair River. The Native American faces the water; the European, inland. There was too much shadow to focus on the details on the other side, like the string of fish.
Some art is less formal. In the spring, local artists began painting the concrete bases of lightpoles and spiles (single mooring posts on shore – in this case, on the inland side of the boardwalk). The theme is nautical; the execution, whimsical; and the effect, pretty.
This doesn’t fit the definition of “street art,” but I want to include ribbons, since they serve a decorative purpose as well as drawing attention to community groups. These teal ribbons, part of the Tie Michigan Teal campaign, were put up by volunteers with the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance. They will remain throughout September.
I enjoyed taking photos so much, I may take a daytrip to another town!
The weirdest thing happened this week. Normally, I start each writing session by rereading the previous day’s work, which primes the pump and gets me ready to write for three hours.
This week, the number of words slowed to a trickle. I still felt like I was writing at my normal pace, but then the bedtime reminder sounded and… 300 words after three hours. Also, I realized I broke a rule of my world and I have to figure how to make things right.
I am going to write in the morning this week and see if it helps.
Before I planted vegetables (and a melon!) in my garden, I planned. Some plants, like radishes, required containers to prevent ground-pests worming their way in. Others, like squash (and melon!) needed room to sprawl.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten a seed-packet of zucchini which I bought last year. After I planted it, I had a leftover of a different breed.* There were no more open, sunlit spaces with clearance all around… Continue reading →
Whenever I find good advice while reading about writing, I take notes and make a citation. Soon enough, certain names repeat; e.g. Donald Maass and James Scott Bell. Here are two whose work resonates with me:
David Farland aka David Wolverton. Long ago, in a galaxy far away, I read a Star Wars novel and somehow got onto his newsletter mailing list. (These things happen.) Some of his more popular newsletter topics can be found on his blog . I thought his post “Opening Strategies” would be good and “To Plot, or Not to Plot.”
Unfortunately, there’s no free link to the article I found most helpful this week. “Plotting Your Way” (Writer’s Digest, September 2019) includes a quiz to determine a plotting method to fit your personality, and then explains it. The article is great whether you’ve got a plan in mind or you don’t know what you’re doing.
My quiz result recommended The Relaxed Framework Plotting Method. It’s a flexible structure that allows me to adjust plot points. I found it so helpful, I wanted to explain how I used it.
It required a “master trove,” a stack of index cards, and my working draft. Continue reading →
Now that we’ve chosen what to write, we must choose where we’re jumping in.
I won’t bother to reiterate ways to begin the opening scene. Ruthanne Reid at The Write Practice already did the heavy lifting in Three Ways to Start a Novel. (Read it now or later – but definitely read it!)